You don’t mess with Atlanta Burns.
Everyone knows that. And that’s kinda how she likes it—until the day Atlanta is drawn into a battle against two groups of bullies and saves a pair of new, unexpected friends. But actions have consequences, and when another teen turns up dead—by an apparent suicide—Atlanta knows foul play is involved. And worse: she knows it’s her fault. You go poking rattlesnakes, maybe you get bit.
Afraid of stirring up the snakes further by investigating, Atlanta turns her focus to the killing of a neighborhood dog. All paths lead to a rural dogfighting ring, and once more Atlanta finds herself face-to-face with bullies of the worst sort. Atlanta cannot abide letting bad men do awful things to those who don’t deserve it. So she sets out to unleash her own brand of teenage justice.
Will Atlanta triumph? Or is fighting back just asking for a face full of bad news?
Revised edition: Previously published as two volumes, Shotgun Gravy and Bait Dog, this combined edition includes editorial revisions.
About the Author
Chuck Wendig is the author of The Heartland Trilogy and the Atlanta Burns series, as well as numerous novels for adults. He is also a game designer and screenwriter. He cowrote the short film Pandemic, the feature film HiM, and the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. Chuck lives in “Pennsyltucky” with his family. He blogs at www.terribleminds.com.
[I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via NetGalley for review.]
With Atlanta Burns, Chuck Wendig lobs one helluva hand grenade into the middle of the Young Adult genre with this bleak, broody affair.
Temporarily trading in the far-future cornpunk pastures of his Heartland series for the redneck noir of Pennsyltucky, Wendig fully delivers with this terrific thriller. It's stocked to the gills with white supremacists, dogfighting rings, drugs, murder, and mayhem. It also has plenty of heart in between, and the titular heroine, Atlanta Burns, is wildly worth rooting for. If you've followed Wendig's other heroine, Miriam Black (Blackbirds), Burns may feel familiar and has a similar world-toughened outer shell and a mouthful of razor-sharp sarcasm.
At times, Atlanta's world feels a lot tougher than Black's urban paranormal escapades. Maybe that's just because this book is kept so firmly grounded in the much-too-recognizable real-world and pulls zero punches. There's bullying, inferences of sexual assault, and lynchings. By the time I finished the first part of Bait Dog, I was a mess. Wendig's descriptions of animal abuse and the tortuous regimen of training dogs for pit fighting tore at my guts more than the last dozen horror novels I've read, and, more than a few times, the book left me in some serious need of cat cuddles from my little fur-ball.
Although Atlanta Burns collects two previously published titles, the novella Shotgun Gravy and the novel Bait Dog, the two stories are so closely interrelated that it reads comfortably well as a single narrative. It's a terrific suspense-thriller that not only packs an emotional wallop but is tough as nails. Highly recommended.